Sunday, December 06, 2009

Coveting other thrones


“Coveting other thrones”, wanting another diocese, amongst our eastern brethren was always a good reason for dismissing a bishop from office and sending him back to his monastery to tend the goats.


A bishop moving from diocese to diocese, except a synodal decision, was seen as a form of adultery, the bishop is Christ the bridegroom, the Church the bride. The relationship between a bishop and his diocese is a bond of marriage, symbolised by the bishop’s ring, hence the traditional veneration of the ring in the west. It was because of this marital union that Augustine remained in the one horse town of Hypo all his life. This marital union, at least in part lies behind the Orthodox understanding of Episcopal celibacy.

A similar permanence has traditionally underlined the relationship between parish priest and his parish, a relationship that used to end in death, usually of the parish priest. My reading of the Code of Canon Law is that it foresees moves as being a rarity and something that only takes place for a good reason. In places where studies have been done, the movement of a parish priest invariably results in lapsation, only in exceptional circumstances in an increase of a congregation.

Often frequent moves, in some Indian dioceses priests are moved every two years, are used by a bishop to impose his personal ecclesiology, and to elevate his status to that of an unquestioned monarch, rather than that of father of loved and trusted sons, or in the collegiate language of Vatican II, of first amongst equals.

Fr Michael Brown has lpost on the Canonical Status of Clergy

12 comments:

Volpius Leonius said...

Regularly moving priests about is as damaging to a parish as a mother bringing different men back to her house every year or so and telling the children this is their new father is damaging to children.

Michael Petek said...

Now you tell us, Volpius. Moving clergy about is de rigeur in the Western Church because some of them get elected as Pope or to the service of the Holy See.

Peter said...

This will be interesting for the Portsmouth diocese where parishes have been amalgamated into pastoral areas. This deprives many priests of the status of parish priest.
Whilst a parish priest is subordinate to the bishop he should be treated fairly. Pity the poor priest who does not get on with the bishop.

May I draw a comparison with the world of finance as I did in an earlier comment? We know how moving bank managers around prevents them putting down roots in the local economy / community. This has not been good for the banks or local communities.
For a priest being moved to a new parish it will take time to overcome local busybodies who will have their own preferences for music and liturgy. So the relative authority of the parish priest is diminished. His responsibility for the education in faith, for the parish finances and the fabric of the building is diminished by frequent moves.

Volpius Leonius said...

Those are very rare circumstances Michael and are likely to only happen once in a generation at any one parish at the most.

I am talking about the rather new phenomenon of constant "squad" rotation of priests that goes on in some diocese which prevents any sense of continuity or stability from forming in a parish.

But of course you already knew that and were engaging in the lowest form of wit I suspect, am I right?

Catholic Student said...

I wonder if Archbishop Peter wants to go 'home' as it were. He is from Battersea after all which is in the See of Southwark... watch this space.

PP said...

I still mourn for my last parish - some years later now sharing a priest with two other parishes and with about half of the congregation it once had.
Where are they being fed now?

If I had known then what I know now....

Michael Sternbeck. said...

And sometimes moving a priest to another Parish can be a real blessing for everyone concerned...

gemoftheocean said...

Never the less, I can think of a few diocese in Southern California (LA, Orange and San Diego counties, just for instance) that could do with some LEADERSHIP. Being a bishop is more than getting to wear a fancy hat. There are a few bishops I wouldn't trust to lead me safely across the street.

What are orthodox people to do when subjected people in positions of power who hide behind their secretaries skirts?

I wish the pope would vomit some bishops out. How much poisoned soup must people be forced to drink? THEY are the scandals. Men who won't or can't lead, who have everyone around them under their thumb.

I've often thought that of thought that of poverty, chastity, and obedience -- obedience must be the hardest to bear, given the priest can be at the whims of an incompetent man. He is at their mercy.

Richard said...

To reinforce this idea of being "wedded" for life to your parish or See, I think I read (in a book on the history of the Papacy) that in the early Church not only was it almost unknown for Bishops to move from one See to another, but that Bishops and even Popes were usually chosen from amongst the Deacons rather than the Priests.

Donatus said...

Talking about clergy .... what do you make of this website, Fr Ray? They have their headquarters a stones thrown from St Mary Magdalen's and celebrate 'Mass' there. It could confuse some Roman Catholics looking for Mass times in Brighton if they came across this, especially if they are looking for a 'Traditional' Mass. Just wondered what your thoughts were, especially as on their 'Links' webpage they have a list of RC Churches in their 'Local Church Links', one of which is St Mary Magdalen's.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Donatus
I am not putting up the website link which you put in your subsequent comment but look here:

http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/2009/09/walking-tight-rope.html

Donatus said...

Ah - very enlightening, Fr Ray! Thank you.